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8 mins 280 8 mins 280


Mr.Dev paced anxiously outside the Labour ward. His wife was in deathly pain, inside the delivery room being egged on, to push, to deliver their third child. His two daughters aged ten and eight were with his mother-in-law. Two daughters in quick succession had not been a happy experience for Mr.Dev. They had been very careful in the following years. But unwittingly one fine day, some months back Mrs.Dev found herself pregnant. Seized with panic, they had run for a medical ‘dissolution’ but it seemed it was a little late in the day and any effort in the direction would endanger the mother’s life. 

Mr.Dev already had enough to worry about holding on to his ’taxing’ job to be ‘saddled’ with single-handed care of his growing daughters. They went to soothsayers and ‘godmen’ and monetary inducements had the uncanny knack of augmenting favoured predictions. The Devs were assured of amazing planetary orientation that held the promise of the most favoured gender as their third offspring. Reassured they now stood in the threshold of that ‘miracle’. The weather gods were displaying benign omens too. Earth shaking thunder and lightning lit up the troposphere. Mr.Dev recollected the epics, wasn’t the avtar born on one such night? 

He would surely name his son after Him. When Mrs.Dev  finally heaved with every muscle fibre that her exhausted body would permit, the doctor lifted up a bawling girl and said, “ you should name her bijlee” for all the lightning she has brought. Mrs.Dev collapsed as though struck by lightning.

In the following months the Mr.Dev never tired of sermons on atheism, the enormous burden of ‘settling’ not one/two but three daughters. One immediate fallout was a vasectomy. The elder girls came in handy in tending to and raising Bijlee. Over the years, Mrs.Dev regained her physical strength. Nothing like girls in helping with household chores. The Devs were now unconsciously driven by a mission to disprove perceived inferiority to families with the preferred gender. The girls were herded to classes to hone every possible skill. Though they weren’t brilliant they were canny and intuitive in chalking their path. The elder was tomboyish and would set off at high speeds on her two-wheeler much to the chagrin and pride of her father.

He worried that she shouldn’t hurt herself but an errand-runner always came in handy. The second one was a beauty and made most of her charms. Bijlee was unlike her name, restrained and quiet. The Devs were taken up with the safety of their daughters as they grew up. Their elder daughter resisted, any restraint to her freedom and a lot Mrs.Dev’s energies were spent in chastising and reigning in her truant daughter.

Over time the elder girls graduated and settled down in ‘decent’ jobs. The beauty jumped the gun and found her own partner much to the Devs' discomfiture and delight. How would they now find a partner for the elder one, but yes at least one of the girls was ‘settled’. Increasing assault on women only added to the parents' fears. For some strange reason they believed that marriage of the daughters would rid them of all ‘problems’ inflicted by society.Mr.Dev’s missionary zeal in finding a partner for his elder daughter bore results and they heaved a sigh of relief. There was some erosion to his bank balance but it was largely contained by the girls' own earnings.

Bijlee now had a little more ‘breathing’ space in that she was ‘permitted’ to think of higher studies She was keen on Biotech and research. She was hoping to get a little extra lucky through getting a scholarship for research. Bijlee wanted to innovate. There wasn’t a day when the media did not carry reports of rape. It was a crime that the victim carried as a cross to the end of her life. First the brutality of the act, followed by the onslaught of living it every day through recounting, the horror,to the police, the hospital, the court, if the victim was seeking legal justice. The stigma was attached to the victim rather than the perpetrator.

The criminals were found to be strutting around like prize ‘studs’ prescribing standards and norms for women. Every day in the life of a woman threw up the challenge of keeping away from filthy, prying arms while trying to live every moment as though all was fine. Bijlee felt that the physical advantage that a male had, created patriarchal societies where everyone sought a male offspring and hoped the female would come from some ‘other’ family. For after all a female was needed to procreate, else the species (female homo sapiens) may have been extinct by now!

Bijlee’s efforts at earning funding for her research at one of the premier universities yielded results. She would be working with a team and it included her undergrad teammate Buddy. Bijleewanted to create a device to help women defend themselves. There were a number of Apps that were coming up in the market but they did not seem to deter rapists. A device was needed to safeguard the woman in the moment of extreme distress. She was thinking of remodeling the ‘menstrual cup’. The cup should be covered on the broad end with electronic sensors and a small syringe needle at the narrow end that would be normally held in a retracted position. The cup itself should contain a chemical that can paralyze a person for a period of time. Electronic sensors placed within the body of a diabetic are able to detect sugar levels in the body to release the required level of insulin into the bloodstream to digest the excess sugars. The menstrual cup needed to be redesigned on the same principle.

When a woman perceives the danger of attack or is attacked, epinephrine would flood her system to facilitate flight. This hormone should serve as the trigger to cause the ejection of the needle to inject the paralyzing drug on the attacker. Bijlee and Buddy had worked on redesigning the ‘cup’ and it was now ready to be tested. How could they convince anyone to use this? Bijlee decided she would be the guinea pig. Inserting the cup and getting used to it was a pain but the worse was yet to come. She had to put herself in the dangerous path to trigger the necessary hormonal reaction. Getting Buddy to be around could defeat the experiment due to the ‘reassuring’ factor. Bijlee decided to go it alone. Her parents were getting used to her staying late in the lab. They were reconciled though fearful for her safety.

On that night Bijlee braced herself. She stayed late in the lab and walked out late in the night. She decided to walk down to the bus stand. It was empty. She decided to walk towards the main bus stand. She sensed danger from the other side of the road. Three men were walking down in an inebriated condition. They saw her the moment she looked at them. They immediately were crossing over to her. 

Bijlee decided to run and they were after her. They caught up with her in no time and pushed her down. Bijlee had never known such intense fear it had paralysed all her senses. While two held her hands and feet one yanked her jeans and pushed towards her. He let out a shrill cry and fell back. The other two were intent on their turn and didn’t care for his reaction. They were on her with alacrity and falling back holding their groin, just as fast. Bijlee stared. Her hands and legs unmoving, wooden. She then pulled herself up and called Buddy as she fled to the main bus stand. Buddy was there in ten minutes by which time Bijlee worked hard at composing herself. 

Buddy looked at her and was silent as they drove to the lab. They sat silently for some time in the lab when Buddy asked her to call her parents. Bijlee spoke calmly to her mother that she would be working through the night at the lab and would be at home early next day. Her mother grumbled knowing it was useless. Call done, Buddy asked her to recount the experience. He could see that she had been the guinea pig and how badly shaken she was. But arguing on why she set about it by herself would get them nowhere. Bijlee had to try hard to speak coherently. She went to the restroom and placed the cup in a plastic lab cover. The chemical in the cup was almost drained. The needle was blood-stained at the tip.

The papers, the following day, reported having found three habitual offenders paralysed on the road. Medical examination revealed what they had tried to do and that it would take them a while to start walking again.

Bijlee had to work hard on maintaining her composure. She often woke up at night drenched in sweat and in terrible dread. She could hardly savour the fact that her experiment had succeeded.

It was some time from this experiment and Bijlee continued working on the research. Buddy had been assisting another team. They caught up while walking to the lab one morning. Buddy wanted to know when she would release the product for market use. It would help a lot of women walk more fearlessly. Did she feel great about contributing to defeating a scourge?

Bijlee replied that she had merely scratched the surface. There was a long way to go. Infants and little girls were subject to iron rods being stuffed into their private. Men’s depravity seemed to know no bounds. Buddy wondered what turned men to such monsters. “Aren’t we an assembly of chemicals?” replied Bijlee. It amounts to how these chemicals react to trigger behavioural patterns. The environment-including the weather, the temperature, the food we eat, the values we are nurtured on serve as catalysts. Conducive external factors combine with our internal chemistry to trigger affirmative or destructive behavior.

When man is able to understand this relationship and works towards alleviating factors that trigger destructive and cruel behavior then the world would become a better place to live in. In the meanwhile the ‘potential victims’ need to look for improvising means of self-defense. This is one baby step in that direction.

Bijlee said that she was researching to see product action in the presence of oxytocin. She was glad to find that the needle remained retracted. Bijlee added tongue-in-cheek, women who forgot to take it off wouldn’t want to hurt good men. After all good men made the world go round, she smiled. Buddy laughed and said “and good women” as they walked up in tandem.

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